“He Waited” is A Thought-Provoking Short Story about how patient God truly is and how the choice lies with us.
A woman died and walked up to the pearly gates guarded by two, 12 ft. angels. The woman smiled and asked, “Could you let me in now?”
One of the angels was holding a huge book in his hand. He responded, “Please wait while I search for your name in the Book of Life. If it’s here, we will open the gates for you. ”
While waiting for the angel, the woman gazed around and couldn’t get over how beautiful the land was. She gushed, “This is gorgeous! The colors here are so beautiful and vibrant…nothing like anything I’d seen while on Earth!” She then lifted her nose and inhaled the air long and slow, “Mmmm, what’s that smell? It’s the most pleasant scent I have ever smelled!”
“It’s the scent of Heaven,” an angel flying by responded in joy, “It comes from our Lord Jesus!”
“Hmmm, Jesus?” the woman thought.
Getting more excited just thinking about everything else she would see, smell and explore in this wonderful place, the woman ran to the angels at the tall gates, glanced at them back and forth, and asked vigorously, “Find it yet?!”
The angel looked sad, “I’m sorry. Your name is not here” He replied.
“Look again”, the woman pleaded.
The angel looked a second time and confirmed, “I can officially say your name has not been recorded in the Book of Life. Again, I’m sorry.”
“What do you mean?!” the woman gasped in shock and disbelief! “This can’t be! What am I supposed to do now?! Where am I supposed to go?”
Realizing the woman’s frustration, the angel holding the Book of Life urged the other angel, “Call the King!”
At the speed of thought, Jesus appeared instantaneously before the woman, face to face. The woman blurted out, “So it is true! You really are God!”
“Yes, I am,” Jesus smiled.
The woman looked into His eyes which were full of love, a love she had never felt before, and with a genuine heart, she asked, “Jesus, why haven’t you written my name in the Book of Life? I want to be here.”
Then Jesus replied, “When I created you, I was so pleased! I made you special. You were My wonderful creation, but you never chose to become my child. This is My home, and when My children leave Earth, they always come home to Me. And here, I have prepared a place for each and every one of them. I have given them mansions, each customized to their personal taste. Every desire of their heart I have fulfilled here…for My children. But you never chose to become My child. You just chose to remain as My creation.”
Trying to take everything in, the woman could only slowly respond with an incomplete, “But…..?”
Jesus continued, “Your parents didn’t know me when you were a child and they never brought you to church, but when you got to high school, you heard fellow classmates speak of Me and My name, but you followed the crowd and mocked them. When you got to college, you experimented with things you should not have and lost control of your life. It hurt my heart and I cried. I waited for you to call My name so I could help you, but you never did. I waited.“
“When your parents passed away, that was the first time I heard you cry out to Me. I ran to comfort you because I loved you…as I still do. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I would hear you say my name again, but it was only to criticize your children for choosing to follow Me. When they brought you to church, your children prayed to Me to soften your heart in efforts that you would give your heart to Me…so I did, but you began to battle in your mind whether I really died for you or even if I existed. So you focused on their church and judged them for their many members, the beauty of the architecture, and how much the pastor profited. I waited.”
“You questioned, “How could a loving God send anyone to Hell, or allow someone to go there?” So, I had your friends explain to you that I don’t send anyone to Hell, they send themselves by rejecting Me, the One and Only True God. I am the Way. And as there are only two places for you to go when your Earthly body expires, your soul is either drawn to the home of sin or salvation.”
“You tried filling your life with traveling, activities, material things, and relationships. You remained an empty, thirsting cup waiting to be filled. I was willing to fill it, but you never called on Me. I waited.
“Eventually, you looked at the world and said you believed there was a god, but didn’t know Who He was. I would soon after send many people your way to tell you of My love for you, but you rejected Me. You must understand that I am a gentleman and will never force you to love Me.”
Two days ago, I whispered sweet love songs in your ear as you slept, and you heard. You thought in your heart you would possibly give your life to Me when you reached your death bed, but you never made it there. I waited for you to become My child so I could welcome you home to be with me forever and enjoy eternal life. I waited.”
The woman felt ashamed for being so foolish. “Well, Jesus, can I have another chance?”
“I love you, and will ALWAYS love you, but Salvation is only granted on Earth.”
A tear fell down Jesus’ cheek as He knew He would have to say goodbye to the woman, the beautiful creation that He loved so dearly. She felt His sorrow and realized that it wasn’t His choice. It was hers for 45 years…but she rejected Him.
Then, just as quickly as Jesus appeared, that’s how fast He vanished!
The woman looked down and cried to herself, “He waited.”
Today’s post will tackle another question that the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: “Who carried Jesus’s cross?”
Here are the answers which the skeptic believes shows a Bible contradiction:
Jesus carried his own cross.
They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, carrying His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which in Hebrew is called, Golgotha. (John 19:17)
Simon the Cyrenian carried Jesus’s cross.
As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they compelled to carry His [cross. (Matthew 27:32)
And they *compelled a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to carry His cross. (Mark 15:21)
And when they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, as he was coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26)
(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)
Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:
When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction. A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time. To put it another way, a Bible contradiction exists when there are claims within the Bible that are mutually exclusive in the same sense and at the same time.
One should be skeptical of whether this is a Bible contradiction given the Skeptic Annotated Bible’s track record of inaccurately handling the Bible. See the many examples of their error which we have responded to in this post: Collection of Posts Responding to Bible Contradictions. Of course that does not take away the need to respond to this claim of a contradiction, which is what the remainder of this post will do. But this observation should caution us to slow down and look more closely at the passages cited by the Skeptic Annotated Bible to see if they interpreted the passages properly to support their conclusion that it is a Bible contradiction.
The skeptic tries to pit John 19:17 as affirming the claim “Jesus carried his own cross” against three verses, Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 as affirming “Simon the Cyrenian carried Jesus’s cross.”
It is important to ask if the passages were properly interpreted to support the skeptics’ claims. In order to check one must also keep in mind the context of the verses the skeptic cited. In all four passages they involved Jesus approaching His crucifixion. It seems the skeptics are correct to interpret the passages properly. John 19:17 does affirm the claim “Jesus carried his own cross” since it talks about Jesus “carrying His own cross.” The other three verses, Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 does teach “Simon the Cyrenian carried Jesus’s cross.” In both Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 the individual carrying Jesus’ cross is named as “ Simon of Cyrene,” while Matthew 27:32 it tells us the same thing in a more lenghty fashion: “a man of Cyrene named Simon.“
While John 19:17 identified Jesus carrying His own Cross that doesn’t entail it contradict with Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 since in order for it to be a contradiction John 19:17 has to say it was ONLY Jesus carried the Cross. But John 19:17 doesn’t say that. Nor does John 19:17 says NO ONE, not even Simon of Cyrene helped carry Jesus’ cross.
Likewise though Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 identified Simon helped carried Jesus’ cross that doesn’t mean it contradict with John 19:17 since in order for it to be a contradiction those three verses has to say it was ONLY Simon who carried the Cross. But Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 doesn’t say that. Nor do those three verses says NO ONE, not even Jesus, helped carry Jesus’ cross.
Given point 5 and 6 it is logically possible at different times the cross was carried by different individuals as Jesus headed to His crucifixion.
It seem the language within both Matthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 suggests it is compatible with John 19:17 in affirming the truth that Jesus carried the Cross. Note Matthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 said “His [cross” with the pronoun “His” being possessive, referencing it is that of Jesus. With the sentencing of Jesus to death, this Cross became His since He was carrying it.
The idea of someone being sentenced carrying his own cross is also recognized and taught by Jesus before His crucifixion in Matthew 10:38, 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, 14:27. Note how I cited verses from the book of Matthew, Mark and Luke, coming from the very books which the skeptics cited passages saying Simon carried Jesus’ cross. This further suggest Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26 wasn’t meant to say Jesus did not ever carried HIs own cross at all.
Don’t forget that punishments was inflicted upon Jesus before He was crucified. Jesus was mocked, whipped, insulted, spit upon, struck and physically assaulted. The idea that Jesus didn’t carry His own cross and someone else carried it the whole time seems implausible contextually. To think of soldiers carrying a cross for the one they crowned with thorns seems unlikely for that mean more work for the Roman soldier; they probably aren’t going to do that for a prisoner they are going to kill. Consider also that Jesus carrying the Cross might be an additional means of punishing Jesus. Of course when Jesus was exhausted because of all that He’s been through before with a sleepless night, secret trial and physical assault somewhere down the road the Roman soldiers forced Simon to carry Jesus’ cross.
We shouldn’t miss that worldviews are at play even with the skeptic’s objection to Christianity. The worldview of the author of the Skeptic Annotated Bible actually doesn’t even allow for such a thing as the law of non-contradiction to be meaningful and intelligible. In other words for him to try to disprove the Bible by pointing out that there’s a Bible contradiction doesn’t even make sense within his own worldview. Check out our post “Skeptic Annotated Bible Author’s Self-Defeating Worldview.”
He bluntly gave his answer, “No!” Then he shared how he knows the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t the mark the Apostle John mentions in Revelation 13. “When people take the actual mark of the beast, which of course is 666, they will know they’re taking it,” he said.
Pastor Laurie explained that the mark of the beast is a pledge to the Antichrist and the antichrist hasn’t been revealed yet.
“Jesus Christ returns for His church and catches us up to heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:1],” he said, and then the antichrist will be known.
“When you take the mark, and I’m talking to someone maybe in the future, if you were to take the mark, you would know you’re taking the mark. The Bible says an angel will fly through the heavens saying don’t take the mark of the beast. So if you take it, you know you’re taking it.”
The mark will be popular and probably will be influenced by celebrities telling people, “It’s cool do it,” he said, but “we’re not there yet.”
The antichrist hasn’t been revealed yet, so “don’t spend your time worrying about if you’ve taken the mark,” the bestselling author told his viewers. “Focus on Jesus Christ and following Him.”
That doesn’t mean that the time of Christ’s return and the uprising of the antichrist isn’t near. Laurie shared his thoughts that “the technology for this mark is effectively here,” so look up, he said, “Your redemption draws near.”
Bible Answer Man Would Agree With Greg Laurie
In July of last year, months before a vaccine was even released, Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff addressed the question “Could a COVID-19 vaccine be the mark of the beast?”
Hanegraaff told his audience that people shouldn’t be fearful of vaccinations but “with fear and trembling, resist the temptation to be conformed to the evil systems of this world, systems that play fast and loose with biblical monikers and traffic in selling and sensationalism.”
Earlier this week I read Elli Oswald’s insightful piece on the prevalence of sexual abuse in orphanages. Her writing was spurred by the horrific news that an American missionary had been convicted of sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Kenya. As Ms. Oswald wrote, it’s a disturbing truth that even Christian institutions that we would hope to be safe can be perverted into havens for abusers, particularly when strong oversight is missing.
What are we, as people of faith, called upon to do in the face of this kind of abuse? I would argue that the most crucial thing each of us can do is lift up better alternatives. It’s not enough to just criticize the orphanage system in general, from the stressed-out, underpaid social workers, to many Christians’ noble and honest attempts to care for kids in a group setting. Something more must be done. An alternative must exist. Let’s call it family-based care. The core idea is to keep families together whenever possible.
I am a first-generation Coptic Christian immigrant, and I first volunteered at an orphanage in my parents’ homeland of Egypt in 1988. Many aspects of life in the orphanage were shocking to me, but the most surprising thing I discovered was that many of the children there still had living adult family members who were simply too poor to care for them.
I went on the found the Christian nonprofit Coptic Orphans on the belief that orphanages should be used only as a last resort. If the loss of a father traps a family in extreme poverty, as is too often the case, the next step should be a search for all available resources that could keep the child with his or her mother and close relatives. What do the mother and child need? Food, medical care, housing, education? We must provide those with the goal of keeping the family together, so that the children can thrive in the right environment. Independent research has shown that most of their needs can be better met within the family.
How do I know this works? I’ve seen it. By the grace of God, Coptic Orphans is blessed to work with over 550 loving church servants who regularly visit the homes of each of the nearly 11,000 orphans in our program. They cultivate a personal relationship with each child, treating them with respect and dignity. These servants assess each child’s needs — including how they can be more connected to their family and their Christian faith — and strive to provide for them, relying on the generous support of the Egyptian Christian diaspora. Education, including individual tutoring and accelerated literacy courses, is the key tool used to help orphans break the cycle of poverty.
Naturally, this model isn’t going to work every single time. But most of the time, it’s the best way to preserve the child’s emotional stability and ability to succeed in life.
I’m grateful for Elli Oswald’s effort to shed light on abuse at orphanages, and I pray that alternative models of care become available to children all over the world. Scaling up the family-based model to serve the enormous number of orphans around the globe would be a challenge. But it’s important that alternatives exist. For that to happen, the conversation has to begin somewhere. I’m glad that it’s happening on these pages.
Nermien Riad is the founder and executive director of Coptic Orphans, an award-winning international Christian development organization founded in 1988. Coptic Orphans unlocks the God-given potential of the most vulnerable children in Egypt, empowering them to break the cycle of poverty and become change-makers in their communities through the power of education.
When Abraham Lincoln was twenty-eight years old, he spoke these prophetic words to an assembly at the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois:
We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.
In this national election, some of us have some disappointment with which to deal. I believe the results of this election are far more revealing about our country than our candidates. Much of what many people want to do troubles me greatly. I do not want to whine and cry and say, “Now what can we do?” Instead, I want to take hold of the one thing that can change us and change our land.
The gospel will have a greater impact on our country than anything else. The gospel message will be more life-changing than any other message we give to people. We may be trying to get people to go to church, turn over a new leaf, or do some other good thing, but the gospel is far more effective. It is not up to us to just tell it in the church-house, but to tell it in the highways and hedges, our workplaces, schools, among friends and family. Have you given the gospel to your friends? Family? Work companions? You may say, “I never have the right time,” but you do not have to have the right time you just need to give it. One day, every person we have ever met will meet God with their sins. What have we done to prepare them for that day?
THE GOSPEL IS
What is the gospel?
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God.”Romans 1:16
The gospel is the power of God. The same power that created the universe is the same power that God demonstrates in the Gospel. When we are tempted to complain sometimes, just remember – we have the power of God at our disposal. Because I am a recipient of the gospel, I know what it can do for others.
THE GOSPEL DOES
What can the gospel do?
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”Romans 1:16
The gospel brings salvation. Salvation brings a change in life. It is strong and powerful, but many times we keep it locked away, like a ferocious, powerful lion locked in a cage. We talk about it. We even say, “Look at how powerful the gospel is! It is strong! It has the power to save men’s souls! It has the power to change lives!” But we cage it up and close it off so that it can do nothing in our lives or in the lives of those around us. If we want to see what the gospel can do, we must let it out.
THE GOSPEL REVEALS
What does the gospel reveal?
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17
Our faith is not in faith. The object of our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. The righteousness of God is revealed “from faith to faith.” I became a Christian because someone gave me the gospel. That is how God designed it to work. Do you remember who told you the gospel? Someone told you and you ought to tell others. People say, “I want to make the world a better place.” How would you like for the righteousness of God to be revealed at your job? In your home? In your nation? Millions of people in America vote in a national election, but most of them could not tell you the way of salvation. These same people could go to a voting booth and be concerned about ungodliness and unrighteousness iftheir lives were changed by the gospel.
What can we do now? Stop the religious work that consumes our time, money, and effort and separate ourselves to the gospel. Nothing apart from the gospel has the “power of God unto salvation” to change lives. I want to complain sometimes and yell at the television or get mad at the news person. Maybe some of them are reporting with great prejudice, but the real issue is not them. The real issue is I am not doing what I have the power to do because I have received Christ as my Savior.
What would happen if we started talking to people about how to know Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and started giving people the gospel? The righteousness of God would be revealed in their words and deeds. May the Lord work in our lives to separate us unto the gospel of God.
Pastors listen to other pastors. We listen to other people in ministry who are down in the trenches doing the hard work of leading others.
Jeremiah was one such person. And he was given a very tough ministry assignment. God let him know in advance that he would not pastor a megachurch.
Pastor Jeremiah has a good word that is timely for those of us leading the church in the 21st century.
This is what the Lord says… Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths Ask where the good way is and walk in it And you will find rest for your souls Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
STAND AT THE CROSSROADS
If you’re going to take the road that leads to spiritual health, you have to stand. Implicit in the word “stand” is that you have to “stop”. Stopping and standing go hand in hand.
This is a critical word for people with healthy souls.
Jesus regularly took time to stop, to be quiet, to spend time with his father. You can’t live life at warp speed without warping your soul. It is so easy to fill our lives with frantic activity only to lose our bearings in ministry and forget “why” we do what we do.
It’s healthy for us to regularly stand and look at our lives… and consider where we are headed. We are so pre-occupied with everybody else’s sanctification that we forget that our sanctification is still a work in progress.
You have to stop running long enough to make an informed decision about which road you will travel.
Proverbs 14:8 says “the wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways… but the folly of fools is deception”
Give thought to your ways. Are you living the life God intended for you? Or, are you so busy, you have little time to stop and reflect and consider the roads that are in front of you.
An old Chinese proverb says, “If you don’t change the direction your going, your likely to end up where you are headed.” Look ahead. If you stay on the road you’re traveling today, where are you going to end up?
Let me ask you a question… “if we could plot the trajectory of your soul, where does it end up?”
Maybe right now you’re at a ministry crossroads. Perhaps ministry and life haven’t turned out like you’d hoped. Maybe today you find yourself empty and drained from the demands of ministry.
There is hope. There is a different way . . . a better way. But you are at a crossroads and you have to make a decision about the path from this point forward.
ASK FOR THE ANCIENT PATHS…
The past is a friend. Many people have walked the road before us, and we can learn a lot from them. This isn’t about something new but rather something ancient. It’s about following the footsteps of those who’ve gone before us.
There are some disciplines and practices that people have used for generations to stay connected to Jesus… things like fasting, solitude, reflection, scripture memory, Sabbath keeping, prayer, confession, personal worship. How are you doing at integrating these into your life?
Your highest calling is to love Jesus… not pastor a church.
Just a few chapters later in Jeremiah, we read these words… 9:23-24
23 This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. 24 But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things.
What if we really believed that? How would it change our ministries and our churches?
ASK WHERE THE GOOD WAY IS AND WALK IN IT.
It’s not the fast way. It’s not the busy way. It’s not the successful way. It’s not even the leadership way that Jeremiah tells us to ask for. It is the good way. God wants you to have a “good” life—a life that is emotionally healthy, relationally satisfying, and spiritually life-giving.
But it’s not enough to identify it, know it, teach it, or preach it. We must walk in it. There have been seasons in my life when I was so focused on “leading” that I neglected my own “living”. We must live well so that we can lead well. And the order is important. My leading must flow out of that which I am living.
Then, there is a surprising punch line to the verse.
AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
I thought Jeremiah would complete the verse by saying “and you will find success for your ministry” or “you will prosper in all your ways”. But the goal of standing and asking for the good way and walking in it is that I would find rest for my soul.
This week I have been reflecting on the word “rest”. What does it mean to operate from a place of “rest”?
calm in the midst of chaos
not striving… not stressed
So many of us in ministry are in need of rest for our soul. Could it be that this is what I really need most and even most deeply long for? Could it be God’s first priority in my life is a connected and joyful and refreshed soul? Could it be true in my ministry that his “yoke is easy and [his] burden is light”? Could it be possible to find the kind of rest for my soul that leads me to say, genuinely, “Jesus is enough”?
Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor. He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul. Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church.
Although the priest argued for forgiveness, the message was lost on students
The Archdiocese of Boston forced Daniel Moloney to resign from his chaplain role at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after students and alumni complained that Moloney brought up George Floyd’s past criminal history in an email to students.
Although Moloney, a Catholic priest, was making an argument that Floyd’s past should not justify his death, the fact that he brought up Floyd’s rap sheet at all prompted some to protest the chaplain’s message to campus officials and file bias complaints over it.
“George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and shouldn’t have been,” Moloney wrote in his June 7 email to the Tech Catholic Community, a group of Catholic students on campus.
“He had not lived a virtuous life. He was convicted of several crimes, including armed robbery, which he seems to have committed to feed his drug habit. And he was high on drugs at the time of his arrest. But we do not kill such people. He committed sins, but we root for sinners to change their lives and convert to the Gospel,” the priest wrote.
“ … In the wake of George Floyd’s death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don’t think we know that. Many people have claimed that racism is major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.”
The e-mail was republished in its entirety by New Boston Post.
Although Moloney’s argument aimed to promote justice and forgiveness, that message seemed lost on many of its readers.
An article in The Tech campus newspaper reports that MIT’s dean for student life, Suzy Nelson, said administrators and the bias response team received reports about Moloney’s email.
In an email to student and faculty leaders June 12, Nelson wrote Moloney’s message “contradicted the Institute’s values” and “was deeply disturbing” and that “by devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character,” Moloney did not “acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism” on “African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color,” The Tech reports.
The Archdiocese of Boston told Moloney to resign from his role as chaplain at the school on June 9, according to the Boston Globe. The move came after more than 60 people attended a forum hosted by Tech Catholic Community on June 9, according to the school newspaper.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told WBZ-TV “While Fr. Moloney’s comments should not reflect on the entirety of his priestly ministry, they nonetheless were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”
Moloney told the Boston Globe on June 16, “I regret what happened, I regret it was misunderstood, I regret that [it] became difficult for me to be a voice for Christ on campus.”
Moloney is a published author at First Things, The Wall Street Journal and National Review. He used to work at the Heritage Foundation as a senior policy analyst for the DeVos Center for Religion and Society. His doctoral dissertation focused on justice and mercy, the subject of a recent book he published as well. He also maintains an active Tumblr page but has not explicitly addressed the controversy on it.
Now we come to message number 13 – I never intended that, but message number 13 in Romans 8 series on the Holy Spirit, and we certainly welcome you who are guests to our church to the end of our series. Regrettably, some of you haven’t been with us in the previous messages, so you’re a little bit behind the curve, but that’s okay. Turn to Romans 8, and while you’re doing that, I do want to make a comment about the worship book.
There’s a note about it in the Grace Today. There have been some rather careful edits in that book that has come out in past years and some added material to it, to enrich it and update it. And perhaps the most notable thing is that the final chapter in the book is on music, what is appropriate music for worship, and there are things in that chapter that are unique to the book, and I just wanted to let you know that that and another brand new chapter sort of set it apart from the past editions of it.
And speaking of worship, the series that we’re doing has one goal in mind and that is to help us worship the Holy Spirit as we should. When I gave the first message and I called for worship of the Holy Spirit, after the service was over, I didn’t get very far until I was stopped in my tracks by someone who was outraged – outraged that I would even suggest that we ought to worship, offer praise, prayer to the Holy Spirit, which points out the problem. We need to worship the Holy Spirit in the same way that we worship the Son of God and God the Father Himself.
In Revelation 22:9, there’s a very brief command and it says, “Worship God.” Worship God. The last chapter of the Bible, “Worship God.” That isn’t anything new. If you go to the beginning of the Bible, the Pentateuch, the writings of Moses, you will find there are many calls to worship God. If you get into the books of history, the books of poetry, the prophets, all the sacred writings that make up the Old Testament, everywhere you go, you will be repeatedly commanded in one way or another to worship God. In fact, Jesus tells us in John 4 that the Father seeks true worshipers. We are described by Paul in Philippians 3 as those who worship God in the Spirit, the Spirit of God. We are worshipers of God, that’s what we do, that’s why we’re here. God is the audience and we are offering Him worship as we should every day individually in our lives and do collectively when we gather like this.
When the Bible instructs us to worship God, the God we are to worship is the triune God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the true and living God, the only God, three in one. When we are commanded – as we are so frequently – to worship God, that must mean all three members of the Trinity. In no sense are we to offer any member of the Trinity any less worship than we offer any other member of the Trinity. We are not to assume that when Scripture says to worship God that somehow we are to worship certain persons of the Trinity and not others or certain persons more than others. Should we not assume that every command in Scripture to worship God is a command to worship the Holy Spirit who is fully God? When we get a glimpse of heaven in the fourth chapter of Revelation, and we read in verses 10 and 11 that the 24 elders, along with the living creatures, fall down before Him who sits on the throne and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, are we to assume that that is one member of the Trinity or two but not the third? When the worship is given to us, the very words of heavenly worship, “Worthy are You, our Lord, and our God to receive glory and honor and power for You created all things and because of Your Will they exist and were created,” that that is excluding the Holy Spirit? I think not.
We are to worship the God who is God, and God declares Himself to be “I am who I am” and who He is is three in one. And yet when we talk about worshiping the Holy Spirit, it sounds new and it sounds novel, and for some people it even sounds wrong. And the argument tends to be, “Well no, no, the Spirit points to Christ.” Well, of course the Spirit points to Christ, but in pointing to Christ, He does not diminish His own deity. He does not depreciate His own identity. He does not intend to diminish worship given to Him. He points us to Christ, but He is no less God, and God is to be worshiped.
The Holy Spirit is fully God, gloriously God, holy God, eternal God, worthy of worship. The Holy Spirit is equally the possessor of all divine attributes that belong to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit equally participates in every divine activity for the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit participates in everything from creation to consummation. All true worship, then, embraces the Holy Spirit, includes the Holy Spirit. He cannot be separated from the Trinity whom we worship and whom we praise.
Why has this not been clear to us? Because for many people, that point that I made about the Holy Spirit pointing to Christ, which Jesus disclosed in His last night with the disciples in the Upper Room, seems to some people – and it’s caught traction and become part of Christian thinking – that the Holy Spirit is therefore deflecting worship toward Christ. Not so. He shows us Christ for a very clear purpose, which we studied some weeks ago, that we might see the model of perfected humanity, and as we gaze at the glory of the perfected human, He changes us into His image. To show us Christ is not to defer worship. It is another way in which we should worship Him and honor Him.
But beyond that sort of strange quirk in traditional understanding, even worse the Holy Spirit is not considered today in the same way that the Son and the Father are considered because there has been for many, many years now, coming from the third force, the third column in the Christian world – first column, Protestantism; second, Roman Catholicism; the third, Pentecostal Charismaticism – there has been coming from that third wave terrible, tragic confusion about the Holy Spirit, misrepresentation of the Holy Spirit, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, insults directed at the Holy Spirit, and they are relentless and they are severe and they are serious.
The evangelical church’s understanding of the Holy Spirit has been mangled. Biblical truth has been depreciated and in its place have come bizarre things attributed to the Holy Spirit by people who have, in many cases, absolutely no relationship to the Holy Spirit whatsoever. Endless assaults are waged on His person and His work coming out of that third column. This movement has kidnapped the Holy Spirit and held Him hostage, and all criticisms of their aberrations and blasphemies are denounced by them as being divisive, unloving, and intolerant.
Obviously, thinking through all of this over the last three months and preaching all of this has stirred my own heart and hearts of people around me who are saying, “We need to do a book on this, we need to bring this to light, it’s been a long time since Charismatic Chaos came out, this needs to be addressed,” and so we’ve decided to do that. But one of the compelling reasons to do that was the fact that we had a discussion the other day and it was brought to our attention that in searching the literature on the Holy Spirit and the things that are being ascribed to the Spirit today that are not true about Him and about His works, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit has gone, in a sense, unprotected. The truth of the Holy Spirit has gone unaffirmed, in this sense, that it was the – maybe the early or mid-1990s since there was any definitive book produced on the true person and work of the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals have gone silent on this issue under the intimidation of that third column. This is unacceptable. We cannot allow this to go on, the Holy Spirit to be grieved, quenched, insulted, and blasphemed.
It’s amazing to me that the evangelical world doesn’t tolerate attacks on God the Father. When there came an attack a few years ago called the Openness theology which denied that God knew the future, denied His omniscience, it not only denied that He knew the future, it denied that He could control the future. This is a massive attack on the nature of God, and evangelicals rose up en masse to denounce that attack of Openness theology and became prolific in providing material for that denunciation. Over the last 15 years or so, 20 years, there have been assaults on the person of Christ, assaults on His nature but more directly on His work on the cross, the doctrine of justification, the biblical doctrine of justification at the heart of the gospel, most notably in a movement called “The New Perspective on Paul,” which was a denial of the doctrine of imputation and justification. There is no end of literature that has been amassed, a huge library of literature defending the doctrine of justification, defending the Son of God against these attacks. But no one member of the Trinity in the same period of time has been attacked nearly to the degree that the Holy Spirit has been attacked, and I say for about ten years there has been virtually nothing to come to the defense of a biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit. And as a result, there is confusion if not indifference toward Him and a lack of ability to worship Him for who He is, and He should be worshiped.
We understand blasphemy of the Holy Spirit from non-Christians. We understand blasphemy of the Holy Spirit from false Christians and false teachers. But we, as Christians, while not blaspheming the Holy Spirit can be guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit. And it is a grief to the Holy Spirit, of course, for us to sin because we sin against Him who is in us, but it is a grief to the Holy Spirit to think wrongly about Him, to underestimate what He does, to be unappreciative or ungrateful, to fail to worship Him out of a grasp of the wondrous grace and the wondrous power of His continuing work on our behalf all the way to eternal glory.
So we have been looking at Romans 8 to refocus on the Holy Spirit, to fully embrace Him in our worship. We know that God the Father initiated the work of salvation, God the Son validated and demonstrated the work of salvation, and the Holy Spirit activates and completes the work of salvation in the believer. We have literally begun to catalogue the work of the Holy Spirit for us as believers. He regenerates us, He participates in our justification, He sanctifies us, He confirms our adoption as sons of God, He indwells us, He baptizes us, immerses us into the union with other believers that we call the body of Christ. He gives us spiritual gifts by which we minister to one another. He strengthens us in the inner man for all righteousness. He guides us. He produces right attitudes in us. He delivers us from sin. He illuminates the Scripture to our understanding. But His greatest work and that which brings us the greatest joy is that He guarantees our future glory, He guarantees our eternal glory. And, of course, at this point the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement renders against Him one of the greatest insults of all by denying the doctrine of eternal security, perseverance of the saints, and attacking His most wondrous work by claiming that He does not necessarily keep all believers secure and safe until eternal glory.
This week I was reading the writings of Charles Finney, whose ministry attacked a lot of things in the Scripture, not the least of which was this doctrine. Finney said, “You are sealed by the Spirit but you can shatter the seal.” The testimony of the Word of God is not consistent with that error.
Listen to the words of Ephesians 1:13-14. In Him – that is, in Christ – you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. We are God’s possession; God will redeem us to the praise of His own glory. The Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of that future redemption, which is called our inheritance, and that is why He is identified as the Spirit of promise because He is the guarantee of God’s promise of heaven.
Peter similarly writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God, for a salvation to be revealed in the last time.” The Holy Spirit is the seal, the guarantee, the down payment, the first fruits, the earnest, the power, the protector of every true believer, who brings us to final glory.
That becomes the theme of Romans 8 starting in verse 17. Verse 17, you first read the word “glorified,” and from then on to verse 39, it is all focused on our future glory and the plans that God has to secure us to that end. We’ve gone through all of that in great detail. We’ve learned in verses 26 and 27 that the Holy Spirit constantly from within every true believer is interceding for us in a communion that is not in any language. It is too deep for words. It is inter-Trinitarian groaning in which the Spirit intercedes, praying for our eternal glory consistently with God who knows what His plans are and has purposed our glory. And the Spirit, as well, knows the plans of God, the heart of God. So God has a plan. Christ provided for the fulfillment of that plan. The Spirit prays for the completion of that plan in accord with the Will of God.
As a result, verse 28 says, “Everything works together for good.” Things, as we live life, God has a good purpose in them, that is true for His glory. But this is primarily talking about ultimate, final good. All things are working together for good because we have been loved by God and love Him in return according to His purpose.
So the Spirit then effects the good intention and ending and purpose of God on our behalf. The plan of God, He foreknew us, He predestined us, He called us, He justified us, and He will glorify us, and our glory will be conforming us to the image of His Son, verse 29 says. We’ve gone through all of that in detail. God has a plan to choose people that He will glorify. Christ provides the sacrifice that pays for their sin to make the plan possible. The Holy Spirit becomes the power of the plan. He regenerates us, sanctifies us, protects us, and one day will raise us to glory. We are caught up in that plan. We are as secure as the Father’s plan because what God purposes, He does. We are as secure as the Son’s provision. Christ actually paid in full for all our sins – not a potential payment, but an actual payment. And we are, thirdly, as secure as the power of the Holy Spirit who intercedes and who keeps us to glory.
Now, having said all of that great theology, come to verse 31, where we dropped off last time, and Paul knows there will be some objections. So he assumes that there would be objections from some who would say, “Well, maybe there are some persons who can change this. Maybe there are some persons who can influence a dramatic alteration in the plan of God.” Like Finney says, “You can shatter the seal.” I read a couple of other writers who hold that view and they said the same thing, “The Holy Spirit seals you as long as you don’t break the seal.” Is that possible? So we could ask the question, “Are there some humans that can do that?” What shall we say to these things? Are there some humans that can do it? The answer, verse 31: “If God is for us, who’s against us?” Are there humans stronger than God? If God is for us, does it really matter who might be against us? Does it matter who might want to destroy our faith? If God is for us, that settles it because there is no power greater than God. There is no human or human system or human religion or human influence or human society or human form of education or human pressure that is greater than God.
“Well,” you say, “maybe God would do it. Maybe God would be weary of us.” God? Verse 32 answers that. “He who didn’t spare His own Son but delivered Him over for us all”? You mean God who when we were enemies gave us the best gift, His Son? He would turn against us? The end of verse 32: “How will He not also with Him, with His Son, freely give us all things?” That’s an argument from the greater to the lesser. If when we were enemies He gave the best gift to save us, will He not now that we are children of His give us lesser gifts to keep us? That’s just logical. That’s the argument from the greater to the lesser. God, who did the most for us, gave the best gift when we were enemies of His, will do whatever lesser things He needs to do now that we’re His sons to keep us.
Somebody might say, “Well, what about Satan? Maybe Satan can pull us out of the hands of God, he’s very powerful.” He tried it with Job, he tried it with Peter, he tried it with Paul and he tried it with the high priest in Zechariah chapter 3. You have four illustrations of it in Scripture. He is identified here in verse 33: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” Or verse 34: Who is the one who condemns? Who is the one who is that’s always before God condemning us? Who’s the accuser of the brethren? Revelation 12:10. Satan and his demons as well gather around the presence of God and bring endless accusations against believers night and day, it says in Scripture. Can he succeed, the accuser of the brethren? Could he break Job’s faith? No. Could he break Peter’s faith when he tried to sift Peter? Could he break Paul when messenger demons literally were tearing into the ministry of Paul? Was that enough to shatter Paul? Can he successfully bring a condemning accusation that’ll cause God to turn?
Well, for one thing, saving faith can’t be broken, the purpose of God can’t be thwarted, but you also have the additional reality of Christ at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us against all accusations and saying again and again, “For that I paid in full in My death.”
Well then, somebody might suggest, “Boy, we’re in trouble if Christ turns against us. What if Christ were to turn against us?” Verse 34: What? Christ Jesus is He who died, yea rather, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God. In other words, He died for us, He was raised for us, His death and resurrection were the perfect satisfaction of God, and thus He was exalted at the right hand of God, having fully accomplished our redemption and who also intercedes for us. He is the great high priest who intercedes for us, our great heavenly advocate.
It won’t be any humans because God is more powerful than they. Won’t be God because He gave us the best when we were enemies. It won’t be Satan because he can’t successfully bring a condemnation against us – Christ has already paid in full for them. It won’t be Christ – He ever lives to make intercession for us. Only one possibility remains then. Us. You can break the seal. You can shatter the seal, as Finney put it. Can you? Why would you do that? Oh, circumstances in life. Well, life could get pretty tough. As long as everything is going good – that was the argument with Job, wasn’t it? He’s blessed, he’s rich, he’s got it all, family, crops, animals, wealth – no wonder he’s faithful. Can we literally exercise power to sever our relationship to the Lord? Can our faith dissolve, break, crumble under certain circumstances?
So we go from persons in verses 32 to 34 – 31 to 34, to circumstances in verses 35 to 37, follow them, it’s just pretty simple. This is worst-case scenario. The question is: Who will or what will, brought by who – who – behind all these whats, there’s a who. If there’s tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, somebody’s responsible for that. These are the kind of circumstances that are extreme. Can extreme circumstances destroy our faith, cause us to abandon the Holy Spirit? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Just a reminder that what holds us is the love of Christ for us. That’s what’s hold us, the love of Christ for us. It’s mentioned in verse 39, by the way, as the love of God – the love of God. And I might add, it encompasses the love of the Holy Spirit. We are loved by the Trinity. Can something happen to cause that love to be broken?
Well, let’s paint a picture of extremity. Seven hypothetical realities escalating, tribulation – tribulation, that’s outside pressure. Things are going bad on the outside and this assumes attacks coming at us. The word thlipsis means – it’s a squeezing, outward difficulty, rejection, trouble, harm. It’s putting pressure on us on the outside. The next word, distress, is a word that refers to inside pressure. It’s two words that mean to be crunched into a narrow space but it has to do with the inside. When outside pressure comes, it has an effect on the inside, right? You start to react to it, fear, anxiety, doubt, questions, dread, and you become victimized by a certain level of panic. You lose your sense of confidence because the pressure is so great.
Can pressure come on the outside that can cause you to be so compressed on the inside that you literally are led into fear and anxiety and it gets worse? And then persecution. This is abuse – abuse – and for the purpose of this argument by Paul, it would be abuse for the testimony of Jesus, physical suffering, mental suffering, things are really going badly for you now. This is the worst-case scenario. You got all kinds of issues on the outside crushing you in, they get on the inside and they begin to produce anxiety, fear, and dread and then it gets worse, outright persecution, digmos breaks out at the hands of Christ rejecters. It gets extreme because famine follows. You don’t get food. You’re deprived, maybe you’re in jail, you’re in prison. That is not the end of it, it gets even worse. You’re in rags. There’s no provision for you. You end up naked, you need clothes. It gets worse. You’re in peril, you’re on the dangerous edge, and finally they start rattling a sword. It’s the end.
Can that do it? That’s the worst-case scenario. You’re about to be martyred. You’re about to have your head hacked off. Well, by the way, that’s Paul’s personal testimony, and it happened more than once that he got to the brink of peril. And it finally happened that his head was cut off by a sword. Can that drive you to doubt? Can that drive you to reject Jesus Christ? Can that drive you to turn away from Christ? Turn away from God? Can that do it? And he quotes from Psalm 44 to say that this is kind of the experience that the people of God have had through history, not just us. He’s quoting from Psalm 44. There’s a plea from the people of God in the Old Testament for God to deliver them because they’re in distress. “For Your sake we’re being put to death all day long, we’re considered sheep to be slaughtered.” They were suffering in the past. As you know, Israel suffered at the hands of its enemies many times. Being connected to God can be a very dangerous situation. It happened then, it happens now. And when it happens, is that enough to shatter us? Smash the seal?
One of the wonderful treasures that I have is a original set of the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Three volumes. You stack them up, they’re that thick and they’re this big – huge things. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs contains the testimony of literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who went through that process that Paul just described here and ended up at the sword or the flame, burned at the stake, or myriad ways that they were executed. And the books are a testimony to the fact that their faith did not fail – could not fail – because they had a faith designed by God, a supernatural faith just like yours.
“In this you greatly rejoice,” Peter goes on to say, “for a little while if necessary you’ve been distressed” – there’s that same word – “by various trials so that the proof of your faith being more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And then he says this: “Though you don’t see Him, you love Him.” Even then you love Him. You don’t turn on Him, you don’t resent Him, you love Him. You love Him all the way to death.
Verse 37 sums it up: “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” We love Him because what? He loved us first. No, there’s no circumstance that’s going to break this. There is no circumstance that’ll separate us from the love of Christ. There’s no circumstance that will separate us from the love of God. There is no person who will separate us from that love, the love of the Trinity. It is not possible. There is no power that can shatter our faith. There is no power that can break the seal of the Spirit. There is no accusation against us that Christ has not paid for in full. There is no higher court than God, and there’s no greater power than the secure power of the Holy Spirit. We come out hupernikmen, hupernika. You get the word Nike from the Greek verb to conquer, to be the victor, super-victor, huper-victor. We are more than conquerors; we overwhelmingly conquer, not in in our own strength, but through Him who loved us. Through Him who loved us.
Trial, no matter how severe, tests our faith and proves it true. Therefore, it’s to our greater good and our greater joy, even in the most severe suffering. It does something else. It earns an eternal weight of glory in the life to come. This kind of extremity/severity makes a nobler Christian here and a stronger Christian, not a weaker one, and one whose faith is firm and whose assurance is settled. It’s the proof of your faith when it stands that test. It proves you have the real thing, and that’s a gift of God to rejoice over, and it also leads to a greater reward.
Paul wrote this while he was in Corinth in the winter, and he had no idea, nor did the church at Rome to whom he wrote, that a short time would elapse and then they would see him in this very situation. He would stand in need of the very comforting truths which he wrote in this chapter because all the things that are written in the list, he would experience. He would himself be this time killed by a sword. And the readers in Rome would be caught up in persecution, men and women whose blood would soak the sands of the great Roman arenas and amphitheaters. But the honor of Christ and the love of Christ was safe in their keeping because they were safe in His keeping. They didn’t need to fear any of these things, including death. They were mauled by wild beasts, they were soaked in tar and lit as torches, they fought with men and beasts and hell’s demons, but they were safe in the love of Christ, safe in the love of God, safe in the protecting love of the Holy Spirit. Safe until they entered into glory.
Paul ends by saying, “We’re super conquerors.” And then there’s a beautiful closing refrain, verses 38 and 39, that almost shouldn’t be explained, it should just be read or sung. For I am convinced – are you? Are you convinced of this great truth? I am persuaded, I am confident, I have come to a settled conclusion that neither death, the great enemy, or life with all its dangers and difficulties, its temptations and troubles, nor angels, holy angels, hypothetically, nor principalities, unholy angels, demons, nor things present, nor things to come, the here and now or the future, nor powers – that’s plural in the New Testament and when it’s used plural in the New Testament, the Greek form, it refers to miracles, mighty works, some supernatural power – nothing, so far, not death, not life, not holy angels, not fallen angels, not anything happening now or anything in the future, not any supernatural, mighty, transcendent power, nor height – that is a term that refers to a star at the apex of its orbit – nor depth, bathos – that’s the star at the lowest point of its orbit, nothing at the highest point of the universe or the lowest point of the universe – nothing, nor any other created thing, nothing in life, nothing in death, nothing in the world of angels, nothing in the world of demons, nothing in time, nothing in eternity, no miracle power, nothing on earth, nothing in heaven from the edges of space, nothing, no created thing in the entire created universe will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jeremiah 31:3: God says, “I’ve loved you with an everlasting love.” That, dear friends, is because we are kept by the Holy Spirit. We need to worship Him for that gracious work. Let’s pray.
Lord, we thank You that we have been able to look at the glory of our salvation in this wonderful way, through the ministry in particular of the Holy Spirit. We know that Christ even went to the cross in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we come to remember His death for us, we want to be grateful from the bottom of our hearts for this massive work of salvation that began in eternity past with election, went through the cross, out the open tomb, and is produced in us by the ongoing ministry of the dear Holy Spirit. We worship You, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for this mighty work of amazing grace. We thank You for it. As we come now to remember the cross of Christ, cleanse our hearts, fill us with praise – praise as it should be offered to You, our great God.
Article by Greg Morse Staff writer, desiringGod.org
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
I can still see the moment clearly in my mind. At a Christian conference, a friend whom I had been studying the Bible with that semester shared with our group that he was ready to follow Jesus. He broke down in tears. We were football players. We didn’t cry. I honestly couldn’t believe it. He not only accepted my invitation to attend the conference, but he even repented of sin and believed upon Christ for the forgiveness of sins. I sat watching it unfold in absolute awe.
Afterward, I talked with the campus minister about how amazing my friend’s conversion had been. The minister, an older man, shared that he had witnessed many such conversions — and that not all had lasted. I didn’t have categories at the time for what the minister said.
Had the minister not been there? My friend spoke, “I want to follow Jesus,” so clearly; no doubt he felt some truths deeply; he soon sung hymns so sweetly, as the crowd sang with him. But time proved that repentance was not his truest praise. The talk, the tears, the newfound happiness soon led to a crossroad. A sinful relationship with a girl proved harder to give up, for him, than Jesus.
Fruit of Lifelong Repentance
If someone’s conversion to God is true, lifelong repentance will follow. The mouth of one not born again can say true things for a time. Unchanged eyes can cry. A dead tongue can sincerely sing worship songs for a season. And turning away from Christ, repenting of him, can prove it all was false.
“Christians sin, and at times sin grievously. But they do not make a lifestyle of sinning.”TweetShare on Facebook
This is what the minister had seen time and time again. He witnessed seed fall on rocky soil — someone who received the word “with joy,” yet because they had no root, they fell away eventually (Matthew 13:20–21). Though they seemed to experience the Spirit’s transformation and fellowship with other believers, they finally “were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:19). And the pain of watching them leave us can be unbearable.
True repentance, then, is lifelong. Martin Luther, in the first of his ninety-five theses, began, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Luther is capturing what Scripture attests to, for example, when John the Baptist instructs, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The wringing of our hearts over our sins, the sighs and groans of remaining corruption, our turning away from sin and looking to Christ will follow us to the grave — if we’re true.
Saints Still Sin
Now, do not misunderstand: Christians sin, and at times sin grievously. But they do not make a lifestyle of sinning. It is impossible to do so. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). Those with the Spirit repent of sin and turn away from it, encouraged by the discipline of a loving Father.
Repentance, we learn in Scripture, is not figuring out the secret passwords to get into heaven. We do not begin an immoral relationship, get confronted in our sin, and continue on in that immoral relationship. We confess our wrongness before God, understand how we’ve conspired against him, and prayerfully cast the sin into the fire, like Paul cast away the poisonous viper fastened to his hand on the island of Patmos (Acts 28:3).
Have you continued in a life of repentance? Have you continued in true contrition over sin, accompanied with a true impulse to renounce that sin? Have you continued to wonder how you could so offend your dearest Friend, grieve his indwelling Spirit, and dishonor your heavenly Father? Have you asked, How could I indulge the sin that Christ died to redeem me from?
Contrition Draws God Near
If you have persisted in repentance, do not forget that your God does not despise this brokenness: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). He does not stand in heaven cross-armed, scowling. Contrition draws him near. As with the Prodigal Son, we do not need to bring our mere promises to do better next time; we bring bended knees and lowly hearts. We ask him to cover our disgrace and lavish us with fresh mercy flowing from the cross of his beloved Son who died to take away our sins.
This is an immovable part of our praise to God: agreeing with him that our sin is horrible, that we deserve punishment for it, but that Christ died for our forgiveness, and gave us his Spirit to put it to death. We vow to turn from it, yes, but only in the strength, forgiveness, and acceptance that he provides through grace alone.
Having seen more men walk away after sin, having witnessed the painful sights the minister has seen, I plead with you: Continue to offer God this truest, deepest, and sweetest of praises to God. “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20).
For seven years, Julie Mellor left the red New Testament on the top shelf untouched. When the Gideons Bibles was dropped off in her classroom, Julie was hostile.
“I was an atheist; I didn’t have any time or need for God,” she says on a Jesus Peeps video. “I thought the Gideons were taking up my class time and I thought spreading fairy tales amongst the kids”
Julie, a native of Melbourne, Australia, was a highly educated schoolteacher. She got her Master’s degree from Cambridge University in England.
While she didn’t believe in God, she did explore the New Age Movement.
But then trouble came into her life.
“I went through a traumatic period in my life, and I thought my life was ruined and beyond repair,” she says. “I was actually considering suicide. God I’m going to believe and pray to you for a month, and you got to show me the goods.”
She remembered the shelved and neglected New Testament. At least, she hadn’t thrown it out.
“I must have been touched somewhere in my soul,” she says. “I took one of their red testaments and I put it on my shelf, and it stayed there for 6-7 years untouched.”
In her “no-obligation 30-day free trial,” she thumbed through the verses that can be found at the back of the Gideon’s New Testament. Every single one ministered to her.
“The list just jumped out to my heart,” she says.
Intrigued, she delved into the Gospel of Matthew.
“These were the words I exactly needed someone to say to me, so reassuring,” Julie says. “I instantly understood that Jesus was what everybody is searching for.
“Here I was, I found Him. I mocked Him my entire adult life and yet He yanked me out of this dark place!” she says.
Today, Julie is married to Australian international healing evangelist John Mellor, who first went to the aboriginals in the hinterlands and prayed and fasted for miracles to validate his message. An outpouring of supernatural healings brought revival to the region. Even the local witch doctor admitted he was outdone.
They have also ministered in Scotland, where they witnessed an eruption of miraculous healing that caught people’s attention and brought hundreds to Christ.
The couple have written books and now minister out of their Christian Outreach Centre based in Buderim, Queensland.